Phone scams: What they look like, and how to avoid them
Phone scams are on the rise. In fact, statistics show that in Australia phone scammers are responsible for close to 40% of all scams. That makes them more common than email scams.
Phone scams are so popular because it’s relatively easy to earn to play on a person’s fears or concerns over the phone, and then convince them to hand over sensitive information. But you can protect yourself by watching out for warning signs such as poor call quality, a threatening manner or suspicious requests, and hanging up as soon there’s even a hint of doubt.
What to watch out for when on a call
Basically, the idea is to be especially careful. If a call feels dodgy, then it’s better to hang up. If a call comes from an “unknown number”, then don’t provide any identifying information.
If you think the call might be legitimate, then tell the caller that you’ll call back on a number that you’re familiar with. For example, if someone calls claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office or your bank, tell them you’ll call them back on the public numbers. Then, hang up.
Phone scam red flags:
- The quality of the call will be poor. Local companies, even when they use off-shore contact centres, will ensure that their contracted companies use high-quality equipment and trained operators.
- The caller claims to be from a technology company that needs access to your PC in order to perform “upgrades” or “tech support”. No tech company will do this.
- The caller claims to be from a debt collection agency or government agency and demands payment in gift cards or through a direct debit transfer. If you had an outstanding tax bill, you wouldn’t be able to pay it with iTunes cards, and if you are transferring money you should ensure that the account is legitimately held by the business requesting money.
- The caller’s tone is threatening or unprofessional. Even the toughest calls, such as from debt collectors, will not threaten your physical safety.
- The caller asks for your credit card, banking details, or other financial details. Even your own bank will not do this over the phone.
- You receive a call from an unknown number (often international) which is hung up after one or two rings. This is a common scam in which the scammer’s goal is to get you to call that number back. If you do, you’ll be calling a premium number, and the goal of the scammer is to then keep you on the phone for as long as possible, spending big on that premium number to their benefit.
How to avoid being scammed
There are a number of things that you can do to protect yourself from the tricks of scammers. But again, the key is to remain vigilant and aware that if a call is unsolicited, there is every chance that it’s a scam.
1. Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognise the number
You’ve got voicemail. A person can always leave a message if they’re genuine. Answering your phone confirms to the scammer that your phone number is “live” and this can lead to future scamming attempts.
2. Hang up
If you’re even slightly concerned that a call is a scam, hang up immediately. Even confirming your name can help a scammer. Often they will record the call and then use your voice for future scams of their own.
3. Block scammer numbers
Modern smart phones allow you to block numbers. This won’t stop a scammer if they use technology that allows them to call from different numbers each time, but it can prevent follow-up calls from that one particular number.
What do you do if you’ve been scammed?
First of all – don’t beat yourself up. Even the most savvy and cautious people get caught out by scams at times, and scammers are very good at their “jobs.” Don’t panic. You’ll need to work quickly and methodically, but if you stay calm you’ll be able to mitigate the impact of being scammed.
Immediately tell your banks and telecommunications provider
Banks will flag your account to note that a scammer might have compromised it. Telcos will generally become stricter with security, in case a scammer attempts to “steal” your phone number (they’ll often do that so they can access any account that has your phone number attached to it).
Immediately change all of your passwords
Change the passwords on all of your online accounts, and remove two factor authentication if that two-factor authentication is done through a message to your phone. If a scammer can “steal” your phone number, they can then use it to get access to your accounts.
Call up Equifax
Equifax is the Australian credit reporting agency, previously known as Veda. They can put a “freeze” on your name, which will stop the scammer from being able to take out credit in your name. You can always unfreeze it later.
Keep a close eye on your credit cards, credit report file, and bank account. Monitor every transaction and look out for any unusual activity, no matter how small.
If you are successfully scammed, you can assume that for the next five years (or longer) your personal details, financial accounts, credit file and online accounts are at a greater level of risk. Be extra vigilant and responsive to the slightest example of unusual activity.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to represent Aussie Broadband and they ask you for sensitive information, please hang up and call us on 1300 880 905 to confirm if the call was legitimate. We’re committed to protecting your private information.
Aussie Broadband was named the top speed nbn™ provider in Australia by the ACCC in 2018. To find out if you are eligible for nbn™ services with Aussie Broadband, check out our availability checker here.